Thursday, 1 February 2018

February 2018: the thyroid


How would you notice that something is wrong with your thyroid gland? This gland can be either too lazy or it may work too hard.
Located in the lower part of the neck, the thyroid gland regulates how fast the body burns food and controls energy levels. It also regulates body temperature, carbohydrate breakdown, mental clarity, well-being, vitamin absorption, cholesterol levels, production of nails and hair, skin suppleness and sex drive.

By far the most common problem is underperformance: you are hypothyroid. This can make you, amongst other things: 
constipated, depressed, forgetful, tired, restless; gain weight, feel cold, have dry hair or loose it, have coarse skin or carpal tunnel syndrome, and cause strange feelings in neck or throat (a goiter). See [1].

When it works too hard, you are hyperthyroid. This can make you, amongst other things: 
shaky, hot, sweating, loose weight, nervous, irritable, weak, loose hair, restless, anxious, and short of breath. It can make your heart race, cause diarrhoea, insomnia, increased appetite and eye problems,  have coarse or itchy skin and an irregular menstrual cycle. See [1].

So - what to do if you think there is something wrong?
If you suspect a problem in this area, go to the doctor. But you can help a lot yourself too.

If your thyroid is underactive, try the following.
  • Avoid peanuts and raw brassicas: Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, turnips and kale. Also peaches, pears and spinach. They block the uptake of iodine into the thyroid gland. 
  • Also avoid unfermented soy. Soy, too, blocks iodine uptake, thereby starving the thyroid of essential nutrients. This means: no tofu, no soy milk, no edamame or soybean oil. Read the labels: soy is cheap, so it is used in lots of products! Only fermented soy, like tamari or fermented soy sauce, tempeh and miso are recommended [2]. 
  • Eat your food nice and hot. 
  • Eat plenty of veg and fruit, less sugar and refined products.
  • Try avoid stress [3] - sorry, this is only for Dutch readers!
  • Exercise - but moderately.
  • Ideally avoid the pill and its surfeit of hormones.
  • Avoid toxic food and heavy metals: eat organic, less meat.
  • Use natural products which don’t contain hormone disruptors.
  • And special yoga exercises under trained supervision do help; so does acupuncture [4].
  • See also [5].
hyperactive thyroid is much more rare.
There are herbs (hawthorn, bugleweed, motherwort and lemon balm) and foods (oats and food rich in calcium, magnesium and vitamin D) which help prevent problems associated with hyperthyroidism. Enough sleep and regular exercise are important, as always.
See [6].

Veg: beet, purple sprouting broccoli, brussels, (savoy) cabbage, carrots, winter (=black) radish, chard, celeriac, kale, cavolo nero, leek, parsnip, potato, pumpkin, rocket, spinach, swede, turnip, Jerusalem artichoke, chicory, corn salad, endive, kohlrabi, salsify, winter purslane.
Meat: goose, mallard, partridge, pheasant, venison.
Fish: bib, cockles, crab, dab, flounder, lobster, mackerel, oysters, pollack, scallops, seabass, whiting.

TO SOW/PLANT (outdoors):
If the weather is suitable: garlic, broad beans, spring onions, shallots, early peas, carrots, parsnips, green/red cabbage, onion sets. And apple trees, if the weather isn't too severe and the ground not waterlogged or frozen.


KALE CHIPS - surprisingly nice!
Ab. 170g kale, 1 tblsp apple cider vinegar, 2tblsp extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 tsp salt.
Rinse the kale, strip the leaves from the stems, cut into 5 cm pieces. Dry thoroughly. Mix the dressing and massage it into the kale pieces with your hands, for 1-2 minutes. Place on oven sheets and bake for 20—30 mins at 145°C. Turn the pieces for the last 10 mins, to make sure both sides are thoroughly dried out and crisp. 

1 tin sardines, ab. 200g cleaned chopped leeks, 100-200g wholemeal pasta, 1 clove garlic, thyme, soy sauce, lemon juice, salt, pepper, cayenne/chilli or 1 red chilli pepper.
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add pasta and leeks. Just before they’re done (they will probably be done at the same time) sauté the chopped garlic, chilli and some thyme leaves in the sardine oil. Stir, cook for a few minutes - don’t let the garlic brown! - and add the sardines. Don’t mash them too finely. Put a lid on to let them warm up. Add the pasta/leeks which should be cooked by now. Stir, heat through, add soy sauce to taste (and salt/pepper if needed) and a squeeze of lemon juice. 

300g pearled spelt or barley, 400g swede cut into 1cm dice, 2 chopped onions, 1 chopped garlic clove, plenty of chopped  parsley, 50g grated hard well-flavoured cheese plus extra to serve, 1l water/stock, 20g butter, 2 tblsp olive oil, nutmeg, seasoning.
Heat water/stock. In another pan slowly heat butter and oil, add onions and sweat gently until soft. Add garlic and swede, stir for 2 mins. Add spelt/barley and stir for 2 mins, making sure all grains are well coated with grease. Now start adding stock slowly, a quarter at a time, stirring often. When it's all in, cook about 25 mins for spelt or a bit longer for barley, to a tender texture with a hint of bite. Stir in parsley and cheese. Add salt, plenty of pepper, nutmeg. Serve topped with more grated cheese. Serve with a green salad.

PURPLE SPROUTING CABBAGE with EGG and GARAM MASALA for 2 (adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall). 
3 large eggs at room temperature, 200g purple sprouting broccoli, 50g butter, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 garlic clove, grated or very finely chopped, 2tsp garam masala, sea salt, pepper.
Put eggs in boiling water, cook for 6 mins: drain and rinse cold, peel.
Chop off the woody ends and steam or boil the broccoli. Steamed, it will keep more colour. Cook for 4-6 mins until just tender, drain. Melt the butter with the oil, add garlic, then garam masala. Turn the heat down very low and cook for 1-2 mins, season. Put the broccoli on a warm plate/plates. Halve the eggs and place on top. Dress both with the spicy fat, serve.
Instead of broccoli you can use other greens, like young leaves of kale or cavolo nero. And if you don't have masala you can use curry powder, though it will give a different flavour. 


For more recipes see February issues from former years - click on February 2017 on the right hand side. Or go to, which still has eight recipes for this year. 
We also have an alphabetical index of subjects,  which you will see if you click on 2017 > February, in the top right hand corner.

Next month: no worries. To see this now, go to and scroll down.

alphabetical index of subjects

alcohol                       Dec 14:
antibiotics                  Sep 15:
                                  Apr 17:
arthritis                      Apr 14:
brain food                  May 13:                           
bread                         May 1:
                                  Oct 16:
breakfast                   Jul 10:
                                  Aug 12:
butter                         Feb 12:
                            Apr 10:
calories                      Jan 12:
chocolate                  Jun 13:
cholesterol                Mar 10:
                                 Apr 11:
                                 Nov 13:
coughs                     Nov 14:
cravings                   Jun 12:
dairy                         Oct 17:
death                        Feb 17:
diet                          Jul 11:
                                Jan 15:
drink                        Dec 17:
                                Dec 14:
eggs                        Jan 17:
fat                            Nov 13:
                                Jun 10: 
faeces                     Sep 17:
fever                        Dec 15:
fish                          April 18:
                               Jul 12:
insomnia                  Apr 15:
milk                          Oct 17:
                                Sep 11:
salt                         Oct 15:
                               Oct 11:
soy                         Aug 13:
stress                     Jul 14:
sugar                     May 17:                        
                              Jun 15:
                              Jul 13:
throat                      Nov 14:
winter salads          Dec 10:
worry                      Mar 18:

February 2017: death


It always makes me cringe when people say: “She’s passed away.” Or they put an animal 'to sleep'. 
Why not use the proper words? They died.
We don't like to use the proper words, but we all know what is meant.

As I am getting older, it becomes more and more important for me to prepare for death. A good death.
A good death, in my eyes, includes having a more or less clear conscience. For when you are dying, you realise at last, fully, the consequences of your deeds. The usual excuses and justifications don’t work anymore. That final clear insight must be what is meant by hell, or purgatory.

A good death also means: to be ready. Happy to have finished. 
I always suspect that in many cases people die when they want to. An extreme version of this you find in India, where the Jain ascetics bring about their own death “when normal life according to religion is not possible due to old age, incurable disease or when a person is nearing his end” by gradually reducing the intake of food and drink - a gentle form of suicide. They call this 'sallekhana' [1]. “Jain ideology views this as the ultimate act of self-control and triumph over the passions, rather than simply as suicide.” says the Encyclopedia Britannica. 
In our culture, suicide is usually the end result of unspeakable misery or depression, or the ultimate cry for help. Sallekhana, on the other hand, demands “giving up this body with complete peace of mind, calmness, and patience, without any fear at all” [2].

So what has all this got to do with eating?
When my aunt was in her late eighties she was in hospital and not expected to live long. I had been summoned from England to see her one last time. A nurse came along.
”And what will you eat today”?
“I don’t want to eat anything at all, I want to die”.
“How about some nice ice cream, with custard?”
“.... oh, ok then, I'll have that".
My aunt happily survived for two more years, surrounded by loving family and helpful nurses.

We eat not only because we’re hungry: we eat because we want to go on living.
Either that, or because we feel we have to go on living, say, to look after our dependants, or because we’ve still got things to do.

And what we should realise, is this. If we go on living, this means that whether we eat meat, fish, insects, or plants - something else has to die. “One man’s death is another man’s bread’ we say in Holland, America, and, apparently, Albania. 
Which is why I want to be buried, not cremated. What use are my cremated ashes, compared to the lovely compost my whole body will make? The churchyards may be full, but there are woodland burial sites where your body can feed an apple tree, or woods for walking in. This is little known. There are even guides on how to start up such a site yourself [3].
The last words come, of all people, from Steve Jobs, co-founder and CEO of Apple Inc.

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.“ 

More info at
And is a very interesting website. I agree with everything on there. Does that make me a pantheist? Or just realistic ...... is there a difference?

PS If you have strong feelings about how you should be treated - or not - should you have an accident, or become seriously ill and unable to communicate your choices: make a 'living will'. If you don't want to 'live' as a vegetable because doctors must do anything to keep you alive: make a 'living will'. See or and many more online. 


TO EAT, and live:
Veg: beet, purple sprouting broccoli, brussels, cabbage, carrots, chard, celeriac, kale, cavolo nero, leek, parsnip, potato, pumpkin, rocket, spinach, swede, turnip, jerusalem artichoke, chicory, corn salad, endive, kohlrabi, salsify, winter purslane.
Meat: goose, mallard, partridge, pheasant, venison.
Fish: bib, cockles, crab, dab, flounder, lobster, mackerel, oysters, pollack, scallops, seabass, whiting.

TO SOW/PLANT (outdoors):
If the weather is suitable: garlic, broad beans, spring onions, shallots, early peas, carrots, parsnips, green/red cabbage, onion sets. Apple trees, if the weather isn't too severe and the ground not waterlogged or frozen.


The shops are still full of those lovely winter squashes. See [4] for what else to do with them. 

1 bunch broccoli tough stems removed, olive oil, 3 crushed garlic cloves, chilli powder. 
Bring a large pan of well-salted water to the boil. Drop the broccoli into the boiling water and cook for 1 min. Remove and drain. Use right away or hold for future use.
Coat a large frying pan with oil. Add garlic and chilli and slowly sauté. Once the garlic is brown and aromatic, remove it and discard. Add the broccoli and stir in the oil to heat up. Sauté it for a couple more minutes, depending on how well cooked you prefer it. Season if liked.

900g cavolo nero (or kale), stems and center ribs discarded, 240ml finely chopped onion, 1 or more tsp grated coriander seeds, olive oil, salt, pepper.
Cut cavolo into 1cm wide strips across horizontally. Cook in salted boiling water 3 mins or more. Reserve 60ml liquid, drain. Sauté onion until soft. Add cavolo, salt, and reserved liquid. Simmer, stirring, until the cavolo is just tender, 3-5 mins or longer if you prefer. Season. Lovely with game!

225g parsnips, rosemary, fresh (flat-leaf) parsley, 6 chopped cloves garlic, 675g floury potatoes, 675g swede, 225g carrots, salt, pepper, 80ml olive oil, (fresh chives), plenty of grated mature cheese.
Cut up roots and potatoes quite small. Put in cold water with the rosemary and garlic. Cook till soft enough, drain, and mash - catch the water for soup or in case this gets too dry. Mix in salt, pepper, and part of the cheese. Pour some oil over it and sprinkle with parsley and chives. Give more grated cheese separate in case people want it. 

1 shredded savoy cabbage, 2 chopped chilli peppers (or powder), 3 crushed garlic cloves, 1 tblsp olive oil, 1 tsp salt. 
In a large pan/wok, sauté garlic and peppers for 1 minute. Add cabbage and stir-fry for 5 mins, until it starts to wilt. Don’t overcook! Add salt to taste. 

To see more recipes for this time of year, click on 2016 and then February, on the right hand side. 

February 2016: keep yourSELF healthy


We have not lost faith, but we have transferred it from God to the medical profession
 (George Bernard Shaw)

“Take a prescription drug, and you also take a leap of faith: faith that your doctor has made the right diagnosis, that you won’t suffer an adverse reaction, and that the company that developed the drug didn’t conceal anything about it from the authorities. (…) Sadly, the pharmaceutical industry has a shameful track record on this front.”

Says the New Scientist, 19/9/15. [1] 
There are more good reasons to first try an alternative before you grab the pills. Good food, exercise, ’home remedies’ usually do much more than just improve your complaint. They improve your overall health, in body and in mind.
Of course, it’s easier to trust the pharmacy, and doctors. But often our grandmothers were right. Although ‘eating good food’ came more easily to them than it does to us, with all those ads and temptations on the supermarket shelves!
Vegetables. Meat without antibiotics - so, organic or at least free-range. Fruit - good old apples and pears! Walking to work, cycling: not so easy nowadays, but at least we can make a try.
  • “Doctors are advised on pharmaceuticals by Nice (National Institute for Healthcare and Clinical Excellence), but this advice is often based on studies funded by the companies selling the drugs.”
  • “A culture of over-investigation and over-treatment is now one of the greatest threats to western health.”
  • “Only by improving processed foods can we tacle obesity among the young.”
  • “The major corporations, not magazines, are responsible for our increasingly poor diets.”
  • “Keep yourself healthy. Way better than asking a doctor like me to do it for you.”

Interesting? Interested? All these quotes come from Aseem Malhotra, consultant cardiologist.
I found them at, where you can find the full articles. It’s good to hear some sense from the heart of the profession - not many doctors have the time, or the inclination, to look beyond their field to the root causes of so much unwellness. See also [2].
Going to the doctor can be a very good idea. But not at the drop of a hat. Someone once told me the best thing a doctor can ask is: "What do you think yourself?"

TO SOW/PLANT (outdoors):
If the weather is suitable: garlic, broad beans, spring onions, shallots, early peas, carrots, parsnips, green/red cabbage, onion sets. Apple trees, if the weather isn't too severe and the ground not waterlogged or frozen.

Veg: beet, purple sprouting broccoli, brussels, cabbage, carrots, chard, celeriac, kale, cavolo nero, leek, parsnip, potato, pumpkin, rocket, spinach, swede, turnip, jerusalem artichoke, chicory, corn salad, endive, kohlrabi, salsify, winter purslane.
Meat: goose, mallard, partridge, pheasant, venison.
Fish: bib, cockles, crab, dab, flounder, lobster, mackerel, oysters, pollack, scallops, seabass, whiting.


1 large pumpkin, any leftovers, cooking water, herbs/spices.
Chop up the pumpkin and cook in a bit of salted water till really soft, mash with the water, put in plastic box. Now whenever you cook a meal, keep the cooking water and any leftovers (you might want to cook a bit extra for this). Whizz the leftovers in the cooking water, add some of the pumpkin puree from the box, more water/stock if needed, spices/herbs to your liking and season.
Voila: next day's soup.
900g trimmed cavolo nero, 1 chopped anchovy filet, 30ml extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 tbsp fennel seeds, chilli/cayenne pepper, 6 sliced garlic cloves, 500ml stock/water.
Saute fennel seeds, red pepper, garlic, and anchovy for 1–2 minutes. Add stock, bring to boil, add cavolo, cover. Simmer slowly until very tender, 40–45 mins, check liquid and stir occasionally.

About 400g cleaned kale weighed after the thick stems have been taken out, 370g pasta, 30ml olive oil, 1 large sliced onion, sliced, 2, sliced garlic cloves, 1/2 chopped red chilli, plenty halved hazelnuts, grated mature cheese, salt, pepper. 
Cut kale into strips; blanch in a large pan of salted boiling water for 4 mins. Take out of the pan using a slotted spoon, and then bring the water back to the boil.
Add the pasta to this water and cook al dente. Meanwhile, saute onion for a few mins and then add the garlic and chilli, after another minute add the kale, heat through and season. Add all this to the pasta when that's been done and drained. Finish with hazelnuts and cheese.

500-600g potatoes, 2 leeks, butter, salt, pepper, 60ml sour cream, 30ml whole milk.Peel and chop potatoes. Put in a pot of cold water with some salt and bring to a boil. Cook until tender, 15-20 mins. Chop leeks quite finely and sautee in 1 tblsp butter. Cover and sweat until they are soft and translucent. Check every so often: they may need a little bit of water.  Add leeks to the potatoes and mash. Add sour cream, 1-2 tblsp of butter and milk. Season.

250g carrots, 250g parsnips, 250g swedes/turnips, 150ml cider, 3 tblsp butter, parsley, ginger optional.This can be done on top or in the oven. Cut roots into bite-sized pieces. Place veg in pan, add butter (ginger) and cider. If roasting, preheat to 220C, cook for 1hr. Or cook on top for 3/4 hr or until very tender. Add salt, strew with chopped parsley. 

potatoes, turnip, carrot, butter, (tarragon, savory, thyme, nutmeg?)
Cut everything up and put on the fire* with some cold water and salt. Cook till everything is soft. Drain, add butter, mash.
For more turnip info and recipes see
*Sorry, this is a Dutchism. I meant: 'put them on', but that doesn't sound so good to me .....

1k potatoes, 660g carrots, 300g onions, butter, seasoning - meat.
Cut up the 3 vegetables. Bring water to the boil with the potatoes in, when it boils add the rest. Cook till everything is soft. Drain but keep the cooking water. Mash, add a lot of butter. Put some cooking water back in if it’s too dry, or use the liquid for soup later!
With any flavoursome meat, though originally it goes with ‘klapstuk’ -  braising steak, not too lean - but you have to cook that for 1 1/2 hour before adding the vegetables. We had it with stewed diced lamb and it was lovely. (Vegetarian) sausages are fine too. Make sure you add plenty of butter, or fat from the meat, at the last moment. This is a winter dish after all!

750g celeriac, 1 tblsp French (or 1/2 English) mustard, 150ml double cream, pepper, (parsley, salt). Peel celeriac, cut into quarters and then into thin slices. Cook for 4 mins: the celeriac should be just tender. Drain. Stir mustard into the cream, add celeriac and season. Heat through, garnish.